Selling for $13.50, the Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance tee is far and away the least expensive in this review. While we didn't expect it to win our Best Overall award, we simply wanted to see how it would compete, and whether good value could be found at the lowest end of the price range. We are happy to say that it can, as this shirt is reasonably comfortable, has a substantial collection of features, and certainly won't set you back very much. While it was barely beaten out by the Under Armour UA Tech for our Best Bang for the Buck award, this is a shirt worth checking out for the budget conscious.
Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance Review
Cons: Heavy fabric, not super breathable, low quality construction, only one tiny reflector
Manufacturer: Russell Athletic
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance is a shirt designed for any style of workout, but also performs well for running. We selected it because of its popularity and extremely low price, and while it didn't include the same high-quality fabric or seam sewing as found on our Best Overall, the Patagonia Windchaser, it was still pretty comfortable. It comes in a loose, relaxed fit, and is made of a double-layered wicking polyester that is on the heavy side compared to the competition. If you can recall what it was like to wear your high school basketball uniform, then you will have a pretty good idea of what it's like to wear this shirt. It ranked near the bottom of our comparative scoring, but still delivers a great value.
Fit, fabric, and seam sewing were the three main factors that helped us differentiate the comfort of the running shirts in this review. The fit of this shirt is loose and baggy, much like the UA Tech, which was also designed as a workout shirt. It is made with 100% polyester that feels nice against the skin, in a dual-layered fabric that includes airy mesh on the outside combined with a finer weave solid material that is very thin on the inside, intended to help with wicking.
For $13.50, though, one would assume we weren't going to find taped seams or the soft flat locked seams of the Arc'teryx Motus Crew. This shirt uses overlock seam sewing throughout, although the seams on the shoulder and sleeves are then sewn flat against the fabric of the shirt with an extra thread, whereas the seams on the sides of the torso are left to protrude. Despite using protruding, low-quality seam stitching, they didn't rub or irritate nearly as much as either the Brooks Distance or the Salomon Agile SS Tee. 5 out of 10 points.
While the outside layer of this dual-layered shirt is made of holey mesh to aid in airflow and breathability, there is also an inner layer of finer woven material that is designed to aid in wicking moisture away from the body. At 5.5 ounces, this was the heaviest shirt in this review, and this is noticeable when wearing it. We found air relatively difficult to force through this dual layer of fabric, in stark contrast to how easily it passed through the super lightweight mesh found on the back of The North Face Better Than Naked. Even the shirts such as the Brooks Distance that didn't have any mesh paneling used much thinner fabric, and as such, we thought this was the least breathable shirt. 4 out of 10 points.
In our dedicated drying speed test, the Dri-Power Core Performance Tee was one of the slowest shirts to dry out. This is most likely because it was the heaviest shirt, with a lot more fibers present for water to become suspended within. It dried a bit slower than the largely mesh New Balance Ice 2.0, but was a bit faster to dry than the Under Armour UA Tech. We awarded 6 out of 10 points.
Made of solid, heavier duty fabric, we think this shirt can serve one well for backpacking or hiking where a pack will be worn. However, with a large and very loose and baggy fit, it would not be a great choice to wear as a base layer beneath other warmth layers. It works fine for running, and probably works the best as a shirt for the gym or team sports. It is a pretty decent city shirt, but not as versatile as the Arc'teryx Motus Crew, our Top Pick for Use as a Base Layer, in the mountains.
This shirt has a reasonable selection of value-adding features, but like most of the shirts we tested, could use a couple more. It has a cheaply sewn sweatband across the back of the neck, which wasn't anywhere near as plush as the one we encountered on the Nike Dri-FIT Knit. On the other hand, it offers a UPF rating of 30+, making it ideal for outdoor use. It also has some form of undisclosed odor controlling agent, but like most of these, it didn't exactly keep this shirt completely free from post workout stink. It only has a single light reflector, a tiny patch at the bottom of the front of the shirt, suggesting it isn't the best choice for nighttime running. Regardless, we awarded 8 points for features, tying it with the other best shirts for this category, like the New Balance Ice 2.0.
This shirt is designed to be used as a workout shirt or for playing sports outside, which it does well. It also works reasonably well for running, but its loose, baggy fit, isn't as ideal as the more dedicated running shirts in this review.
The price tag of $13.50 is almost too good to be true this day in age. While it didn't offer the same level of comfort or performance as our Best Bang for the Buck winning Under Armour UA Tech, we simply can't argue that this shirt is a great value purchase.
The Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance tee was the least expensive shirt that we tested, and although it couldn't compete for long-distance running performance, is a great choice for the budget conscious.
— Andy Wellman